THE GATEHOUSE… A SHORT HISTORY
Of all the inns and pubs in Highgate, The Gatehouse is probably the oldest. Its nineteenth century owners claimed that there had been a licensed building on the site since 1337, although nothing can be proven as licensing by justices did not commence until 1552 when there were five inns licensed in Highgate, but none of them were actually named in the records.
The earliest mention of The Gatehouse in the licensing records is 1670 when an Edward Culter made an application to the borough of St.Pancras. One curious fact about The Gatehouse was that the borough boundary between Middlesex and London ran through the building. When the hall was used as a courtroom, a rope divided the sessions to make sure prisoners didn’t escape to another authority’s area. The boundary problem continued as the names changed, most recently with Camden and Haringey sharing the building. In 1993 the border was moved a few feet to allow one licensing authority overall control and The Gatehouse is now the last pub (going North) in Camden.
From its days next to the toll gate through its use as a meeting house and courtroom, The Gatehouse has had a chequered history. Byron, Cruikshank and Dickens all used its services and the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution’s inaugural meeting took place in the pub on 16th January 1839. At the turn of the century The Gatehouse was famous all over London for its “shilling ordinairies”, gigantic lunches which filled many a Victorian stomach and in 1905 the building was renovated in the mock Tudor style that remains today.
The auditorium that now houses the theatre was opened in 1895 as “a place suitable for balls, Cinderellas and Concerts” and its various uses have included a Victorian Music Hall, a cinema, a Masonic Lodge and a venue for amateur dramatics. In the sixties a jazz and folk club featured amongst others, the Crouch End All Stars and, on one famous occasion, Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel fame).
It has taken over a hundred years to turn the Highgate Hall (as it was called in 1895) into the village’s first theatrical auditorium, we hope the Victorian residents would have approved.
Officially London’s Top Theatre – We’re 446 ft above Sea Level!